Chotopishi’s presents for Dada (the train set and the mecano, if you’ve bin paying any attention in Part-1) were boring. Who the heck wanted ta sit around figuring out how ta build a toy. I liked ta play with toys, not build ‘em.
For Chorda and me, among many other little titbits, Chotopishi had brought two ‘Matchbox’ cars. Chorda got an exquisitely crafted ambulance that had tiny doors that opened and an equally tiny stretcher that could be brought out and I got an amazing miniature car carrying 18-wheeler with six cars on it. Frankly my present was bigger and had more stuff on it but I had to have what Chorda had – his ambulance, because it had doors that opened and shut.
The auto carrier was an exact replica, right down to the tiny hydraulic cylinders and pistons that raised and lowered the three platforms that supported the cars. On the top deck was a Buick and a Merc and the lower decks had only sports cars and convertibles, each exact miniatures, the workmanship simply mind-blowing. Matchbox those days was a real toy company making toy cars from real steel, not like today’s crappy aluminum and plastic jobs that don’t last even five minutes.
On a scale of one ta ten, Chorda’s ambulance was maybe a three if you were charitable and my auto carrier was clearly a nine at least. And yet, I wanted the ambulance. No reason – I just had ta have it. Because it wasn’t mine. Dada’s Mecano was as boring as Chorda’s ambulance was enticing. You just have ta look at this from a coddled and spoilt, cuddled and kissed, boisterous and incorrigible little kid’s angle. Everybody made me believe I was the best.
Chotopishi gave us our presents on a Friday and Sunday claimed its first casualty. I had wanted ta see what an 18-wheel auto carrier would do if it went off a cliff and I drove it off the dining table, while I screamed at the top of my lungs,” Superman, help! Mister Mxyzptlk has locked my steering wheeeel and he’s giggling that maniacal giggle and there’s no time ta say his name backwards!!!”
Even Matchbox’s famed steel body couldn’t stand the impact. Those little pistons and cylinders broke free and skittered about, while the platforms collapsed, sending the Buick and the Merc crashing through the kitchen screen door, their kinetic energy finally dissipated against our dog, Shepherd’s butt. Had it not been for Chotopishi’s intervention, I’d have been grounded for sure.
Now that my toy was finished, the yearning for Chorda’s ambulance burgeoned into a bloodthirst. I followed Chorda around all of Sunday, imploring him to ‘let me play with it for just a little while please, I’ll do anything you ask. You can have my marbles. Listen, that big jade marble is yores. From now it has your name written on it.’
But Chorda wouldn’t have any of it. He knew that the ambulance had as much chance of making it through the day in my hands as a hottentot did, inside a 1960s’ Transvaal pub. I didn’t exactly play with toys. I experimented with them, I put them through endurance tests, I was an advanced test lab, I was a theoretical physicist, I was Boeing, I was Nasa, I was a prawdigee, ooh yeah.
By the time I went to bed that night, I had lost all hope of being able ta get my hands on Chorda’s ambulance. But I had a plan – during the 10-minute window next morning, when Chorda was in the loo, I would go over his things with a metal detector and an ambulance sniffer dog named Shepherd. I would find it and I would secrete it, unbeknownst to him. Hyak!
Didn’t turn out that way at all. Next morning, while Chorda was letting loose in the loo, I searched frantically but couldn’t find it. With time running out and minutes remaining before my two bros had ta go stand at the curb for the school bus, I grovelled and begged, promising unrestricted rights to all my toys (which really wasn’t saying much since they were mostly broken beyond repair).
When the two finally left, their school bags slung over their shoulders, grinding routine kicked in. My Ma and I went over to the balcony and stood there, looking down at them as they waited for the bus. I was inconsolable with despair. Chorda had obviously hidden the damn ambulance well. Come ta think of it, at two and a half feet, most stuff at home were beyond my reach in those days, so all he had to do was ta stow it an altitude higher than my sticky fingers. The prospect of another stupid day, with more of coloring stupid cartoon characters and more of those stupid khir kodombos, began ta loom large.
At exactly the appointed time, the school bus swung into view and came to a halt right beside my bros. Dada got in first and then, his foot hovering over the first step, Chorda hesitated an instant and then he did something inexplicable – he swiveled around and looked up at the balcony where Ma and I stood. He had a grin on his face.
“Its behind the last Britannica on the middle shelf,” he shouted and turning, disappeared inside the bus as it simultaneously lurched forward.
I was outa there even before the bus had turned the corner. Ma ran after me, laughing. “Here, darling, let me get it for you,” she said. Sure enough, the ambulance was tucked away at an altitude beyond my reach. Ma reached behind one of the thick Encyclopedia Britannica volumes on the book rack that covered almost one entire wall of our living room and she handed it to me.
That October Monday in 1960 went swiftly by and a few minutes before the school bus returned in the afternoon, Monday claimed its first casualty. This time, the ambulance crossed a red light with its siren on and its lights flashing, failing ta avoid the beat-up 18-wheeler auto carrier with collapsed platforms and a bashed up Buick on it. It would have still made it, but try driving an ambulance that had been offered to the family dog ta chew on.
As for Chorda, that was the first of many little acts of kindness and consideration that he has shown me over the years.